Royal Marines

Royal Marines
Royal Marines
Royal Marine Corps Crest
Active 1664 – Present
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Royal Navy
Type Commando
Role Amphibious warfare
Special Forces support
Size 7,420 Personnel[1] and 970 Reserve Personnel[2]
Part of Naval Service
Garrison/HQ COMUKAMPHIBFOR (Portsmouth)
40 Commando (Taunton)
42 Commando (Plymouth)
45 Commando (Arbroath)
Fleet Protection Group (HMNB Clyde)
Commando Logistic Regiment (Chivenor)
1 Assault Group (Poole)
Commando Training Centre (Lympstone)
Nickname Royal
The Corps
Motto Per Mare, Per Terram ("By Sea, By Land")
Colors Blue
March Quick: "A Life on the Ocean Wave"
Slow: "Preobrajensky"
Website Royal Marines
Captain-General HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, KG, KT, OM, GBE, AC, QSO, PC
Commandant-General Major-General F H R Howes
Commando flash Royal Marines Commando.svg
Abbreviation RM

The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines (RM), are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service.[3] They are also the United Kingdom's specialists in amphibious warfare, including the operation of landing craft; mountain warfare; and Arctic warfare. A core component of the country's Rapid Deployment Force, the 3 Commando Brigade is capable of operating independently and is highly trained as a commando force. It is trained to deploy quickly and fight in any terrain. The Royal Marines have the longest basic infantry training course of any NATO combat troops.



The Royal Marines have a regular manpower of 7,420 personnel. In addition the Royal Marines have a part time volunteer reserve force (RMR) of 970[2] personnel, giving a total of 8,390 Royal Marines. This makes the Royal Marines the largest force of its type in the European Union, and it is the only European force capable of carrying out amphibious operations at brigade level. The Royal Marines are the second largest force of its type in NATO.


Major General John Tupper His Majesty's Marine Forces.

The Royal Marines were formed as part of the Naval Service in 1755. However, it can trace its origins back as far as 28 October 1664 when at the grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company "the Duke of York and Albanys maritime regiment of foot" was first formed up, when English soldiers first went to sea to fight the Spanish and prevent them from reaching the fortress of Gibraltar.[4] The Royal Marines served throughout the Napoleonic Wars in every notable naval battle on-board the Royal Navy's ships and participated in multiple amphibious actions. The marines continued in their on-board function after the war, taking a prominent part in the navy's anti-piracy and anti-slavery actions. In 1855 they were newly designated as the Royal Marines Light Infantry, serving in the Crimean war in numerous amphibious raids on Russian forces. The Corps underwent a notable change after 1945 however, when the Royal Marines took on the main responsibility for the role and training of the British Commandos. The Royal Marines have an illustrious history, and since their creation in 1942 Royal Marines Commandos have engaged on active operations across the globe, every year, except 1968.[5] Notably they were the first ever military unit to perform an air assault insertion by helicopter, during the Suez Crisis in 1956.[6]


The Royal Marines are a maritime-focused, amphibious, highly specialised Light - medium force of commandos capable of deploying at short notice in support of the United Kingdom Government's military and diplomatic objectives overseas and are optimised for expeditionary warfare: operational situations requiring highly manoeuvreable, normally amphibious, forces. As the United Kingdom Armed Forces' specialists in cold weather warfare the Corps provide lead element expertise in the NATO Northern Flank and are optimised for high altitude operations, with jungle training still carried out when deployments allow.

In common with the other armed forces, the Royal Marines can provide resources for Military Aid to the Civil Community and Military Aid to the Civil Power operations and have done so.

Command, control and organisation

The overall head of the Royal Marines is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in her role as Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces.

The ceremonial head of the Royal Marines is the Captain General Royal Marines (equivalent to the Colonel-in-Chief of a British Army regiment). The current Captain-General is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Full Command of the Royal Marines is vested in the Commander-in-Chief Fleet (CINCFLEET)[7] with the Commandant-General Royal Marines, a Major-General, embedded within the CINCFLEET staff as Commander UK Amphibious Force (COMUKAMPHIBFOR).

Structure Royal Marines

The operational capability of the Corps comprises a number of Battalion-plus sized units, of which three are designated as "Commandos":

With the exception of the Fleet Protection Group and Commando Logistic Regiment, which are each commanded by a full Colonel, each of these units is commanded by a Lieutenant-Colonel of the Royal Marines, who may have sub-specialised in a number of ways throughout his career.[9]

There is also a Mountain Leader Training Cadre based at Stonehouse Barracks, Plymouth.[citation needed]

3 Commando Brigade

Operational Command (OpCom) of the three Commandos and the Commando Logistics Regiment is delegated to 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, of which they are a part. Based at Stonehouse Barracks, the brigade exercises control as directed by either CINCFLEET or the Permanent Joint Headquarters. As the main combat formation of the Royal Marines, the brigade has its own organic capability to support it in the field, 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group, a battalion sized formation providing information operations capabilities, life support and security for the Brigade Headquarters.

Independent elements

The independent elements of the Royal Marines are:[10]

  • Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines is responsible for the security of the United Kingdom's nuclear deterrent and other security-related duties. It also provides specialist boarding parties and snipers for the Royal Navy worldwide, for roles such as embargo enforcement, counter-narcotics, counter-piracy and counter-insurgency activities of the Royal Navy. It is commando-sized, however the structure differs to reflect its role; it bears the colours, battle honours and customs of the former 43 Commando Royal Marines.
  • Commando Training Centre: This is the training unit for the entire corps, and consists of three separate sections:
    • Commando Training Wing: This is the initial basic commando training section for new recruits to the Royal Marines, and the All Arms Commando Course.
    • Specialist Wing: This provides specialist training in the various trades which Marines may elect to join once qualified and experienced in a Rifle Company.
    • Command Wing: This provides command training for both officers and NCOs of the Royal Marines.
Royal Marines Landing Craft exercise.
Marines Special Boat Service Troop.
Royal Marines landing craft helo extraction.
  • Special Boat Service (SBS) are naval special forces and under operational command of Director Special Forces. It is commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel qualified as a Swimmer Canoeist. SBS Responsibilities include water-borne operations, Maritime Counter-Terrorism and other special forces tasks.
  • Royal Marines Band Service provides regular bands for the Royal Navy and provides expertise to train RN Volunteer Bands. Musicians have a secondary role as field hospital orderlies. Personnel may not be commando trained, wearing a blue beret instead of green; the band service is the only branch of the Royal Marines which admits women.

Structure of a Commando

The Commando Flash, sewn to the upper sleeve of a DPM shirt.
Royal Marine in training with L85A1

The three Commandos are each organised into six companies, further organised into platoon-sized troops, as follows:[11]

  • Command Company
    • Main HQ
    • Tactical HQ
    • Reconnaissance Troop (includes a sniper section)
    • Mortar Troop (9 Barrels of 81 mm)
    • Anti-Tank (AT) Troop (Javelin ATGW)
    • Medium Machine Gun Troop
  • One Logistic Company
    • A Echelon 1 (A Ech1)
    • A Echelon 2 (A Ech2)
    • FRT
    • RAP
    • B Echelon (B Ech)
  • Two Close Combat Companies
    • Company Headquarters (Coy HQ)
    • Three Close Combat Troops (Troop HQ, 3 Rifle Sections, Manoeuvre Support Section)
  • Two Stand Off Companies
    • Company Headquarters (Coy HQ)
    • Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) Troop (0.5" heavy machine guns)
    • AT Troop
    • Close Combat Troop

In general a rifle company Marine will be a member of a four-man fire team, the building block of commando operations. A Royal Marine works with his team in the field and shares accommodation if living in barracks.

This structure is a recent development, formerly Commandos were structured similarly to British Army light Infantry Battalions.[12] During the restructuring of the United Kingdom's military services the Corps evolved from a Cold War focus on NATO's Northern Flank towards a more expeditionary posture.

Amphibious Task Group

Royal Marine in a Rigid Raider assault watercraft.

Formerly known as the Amphibious Ready Group, the Amphibious Task Group (or ATG) is a mobile, balanced amphibious warfare force, based on a Commando Group and its supporting assets, that can be kept at high readiness to deploy into an area of operations. The ATG is normally based around specialist amphibious ships, most notably HMS Ocean, the largest ship in the British fleet. Ocean was designed and built to accommodate an embarked commando and its associated stores and equipment. The strategy of the ATG is to wait "beyond the horizon" and then deploy swiftly as directed by HM Government. The whole amphibious force is intended to be self-sustaining and capable of operating without host-nation support. The concept was successfully tested in operations in Sierra Leone.[13]

Commando Helicopter Force

The Commando Helicopter Force forms part of the Fleet Air Arm. The force comprises four helicopter squadrons and is commanded by the Joint Helicopter Command.[14] It consists of both Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Marines personnel. RN personnel need not be commando trained. The Commando Helicopter Force is neither under the permanent control of 3 Commando Brigade nor that of the Commandant General Royal Marines but rather is allocated to support Royal Marines units as required. It uses both Sea King transport and Lynx Light lift helicopters to provide aviation support for the Royal Marines.

Training and selection

Royal Marines recruit training is the longest basic modern infantry training programme of any NATO combat troops.[15] The Royal Marines are the only part of the British Armed Forces where officers and other ranks are trained at the same location, the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM) at Lympstone, Devon. Much of the basic training is carried out on the rugged terrain of Dartmoor and Woodbury Common with a significant proportion taking place at night.


Initially all potential recruits are required to attend a series of entrance/aptitude tests and interviews at the Armed Forces Careers office (AFCO) to assess the suitability of all applicants. A series of physical assessments are also conducted including a hearing test, sight test and drug test in the form of a urine sample. As well as two 1.5 mile runs (2.4 km) the first to be completed within 12 minutes 30 seconds with 1 minute break before another 1.5 mile run to be completed at best effort but under 10 minutes 00 seconds, both set at a 2 degree incline on a running machine. For Potential Officers the times are 8 minutes 30 seconds and 10 minutes 30 seconds respectively.

Then, before beginning Royal Marines recruit training the potential recruit must attend a Potential Royal Marine Course (PRMC) or Potential Officer Course (POC) held at CTCRM. PRMC lasts three days and assesses physical ability and intellectual capacity to undertake the recruit training. Officer candidates must also undertake the Admiralty Interview Board.

Officers and Marines undergo the same training up to the commando tests, thereafter Marines go on to employment in a rifle company while Officers continue training. Officer candidates are required to meet higher standards in the Commando tests.

Basic training

The first weeks of training are spent learning basic skills that will be used later. This includes much time spent on the parade ground and on the rifle ranges. The long history of the Royal Marines is also highlighted through a visit to the Royal Marines Museum in Southsea, Hampshire. Physical training at this stage emphasizes all-round physical strength, endurance and flexibility in order to develop the muscles necessary to carry the heavy equipment a marine will use in an operational unit. Key milestones include a gym passout at week 9 (not carried out with fighting order), a battle swimming test, and learning to do a "regain" (i.e. climb back onto a rope suspended over a water tank). Most of these tests are completed wearing fighting order of 32 lb (14.5 kg) of Personal Load Carrying Equipment. Individual fieldcraft skills are also taught at this basic stage.

The Commando course

The culmination of training is the Commando course. Following the Royal Marines taking on responsibility for the Commando role with the disbandment of the Army Commandos at the end of World War II, all Royal Marines, except those in the Royal Marines Band Service, complete the Commando course as part of their training (see below). Key aspects of the course include climbing and ropework techniques, patrolling and amphibious warfare operations.

This intense phase ends with a series of tests which have remained virtually unchanged since World War II. Again, these tests are done in full fighting order of 32 lb (14.5 kg) of equipment.

The Commando tests are taken on consecutive days and all four tests must be successfully completed within a seven day period; they include;

  • A nine mile (14.5 km) speed march, carrying full fighting order, to be completed in 90 minutes; the pace is thus 10 minutes per mile (9.6 km/h or 6 mph).
  • The Endurance course is a six mile (9.65 km) course across rough moorland and woodland terrain at Woodbury Common near Lympstone, which includes tunnels, pipes, wading pools, and an underwater culvert. The course ends with a four mile (6 km) run back to CTCRM. Followed by a marksmanship test, where the recruit must hit 6 out of 10 shots at a 25m target simulating 200 m. To be completed in 73 minutes (71 minutes for Royal Marine officers). Originally 72 minutes, these times were recently increased by one minute as the route of the course was altered.
  • The Tarzan Assault Course. This is an assault course combined with an aerial confidence test. It starts with a death slide (now known as the Commando Slide) and ends with a rope climb up a thirty foot near-vertical wall. It must be completed with full fighting order in 13 minutes, 12 minutes for officers. The Potential Officers Course also includes confidence tests from the Tarzan Assault Course, although not with equipment.
  • The 30 miler. This is a 30-mile (48-km) march across upland Dartmoor, wearing full fighting order, and additional safety equipment carried by the recruit in a daysack. It must be completed in eight hours for recruits and seven hours for Royal Marine officers, who must also navigate the route themselves, rather than following a DS (a trained Royal Marine) with the rest of a syndicate and carry their own equipment.

After the 30-mile (48 km) march, any who failed any of the tests may attempt to retake them up until the seven day window expires. If a recruit fails two or more of the tests, however, it is unlikely that a chance to re-attempt them will be offered.

Normally the seven to eight day schedule for the Commando Tests is as follows:

  • Saturday - Endurance Course
  • Sunday - Rest
  • Monday - Nine Mile Speed March
  • Tuesday - Tarzan Assault Course
  • Wednesday - 30 Miler
  • Thursday - Failed test re-runs
  • Friday - Failed test re-runs
  • Saturday - 30 Miler re-run if required

Completing the Commando course successfully entitles the recruit or officer to wear the green beret but does not mean that the Royal Marine has finished his training. That decision will be made by the troop or batch training team and will depend on the recruit's or young officer's overall performance. Furthermore, officer training still consists of many more months.

Training to be a Royal Marine takes 32 weeks. The last week is spent mainly on administration and preparing for the pass out parade. Recruits in their final week of training are known as the King's Squad and have their own section of the recruits' galley at Lympstone.

After basic and commando training, a Royal Marine Commando will normally join a unit of 3 Commando Brigade. There are three Royal Marines Commando infantry units in the Brigade: 40 Commando located at Norton Manor Camp near Taunton in Somerset, 42 Commando at Bickleigh Barracks, near Plymouth, Devon and 45 Commando at RM Condor, Arbroath on the coast of Angus.

Non-Royal Marine volunteers for Commando training undertake the All Arms Commando Course.

There is also a Reserve Commando Course run for members of the Royal Marines Reserve and Commando units of the Territorial Army.

Specialist training

Royal Marine snipers with L115A1 sniper rifles

Royal Marines after a period as a General Duties Rifleman may then go on to undertake specialist training in a variety of skills:

Commando Specialisations

Commando Officer specialisations

  • Heavy Weapons Officer
  • Intelligence Officer
  • Landing Craft Officer
  • Mountain Leader
  • Pilot
  • Physical Training and Sports Officer
  • Signals Officer
  • Special Boat Service Officer
  • Staff Officer
  • Weapons Training Officer
  • Platoon Weapons

Training for these specialisations may be undertaken at CTCRM or in a joint environment, such as the Defence School of Transport at Leconfield, The School of Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (SEME) based at Bordon or the Defence College of Policing and Guarding.

Some marines are trained in military parachuting to allow flexibility of insertion methods for all force elements. Marines complete this training at RAF Brize Norton but are not required to undergo Pre-Parachute Selection Course (P-Company) training due to the arduous nature of the commando course they have already completed.

Current weapons and equipment

The Royal Marines operate a diverse range of vehicles, weapons and landing craft.[16][dead link]


Landing craft


Traditions and insignia


The Royal Marines have a proud history and unique traditions. Their colours (flags) do not carry individual battle honours in the manner of the regiments of the British Army but rather the "globe itself" as the symbol of the Corps.

The badge of the Royal Marines is designed to commemorate the history of the Corps. The Lion and Crown denotes a Royal regiment. King George III conferred this honour in 1802 "in consideration of the very meritorious services of the Marines in the late war."

The "Great Globe itself" surrounded by laurels was chosen by King George IV as a symbol of the Marines' successes in every quarter of the world. The laurels are believed to honour the gallantry they displayed during the investment and capture of Belle Isle, off Lorient, in April–June 1761.

The word Gibraltar refers to the Siege of Gibraltar in 1704. It was awarded in 1827 by George IV as a special distinction for the services of four of the old Army Marine regiments (Queen's Own Marines, 1st Marines, 2nd Marines, 3rd Marines). All other honours gained by the Royal Marines are represented by the "Great Globe". As a consequence, there are no battle honours displayed on the colours of the four battalion-sized units in the corps.

When referring to individual Commandos: 45 Commando is referred to as "four-five" rather than "forty-five commando" as is 42 Commando, 40 Commando is "forty".

The only units which carry colours are 40 Commando, 42 Commando, 45 Commando, and the Fleet Protection Group (which is the custodian of the colours of 43 Commando).

The fouled anchor, incorporated into the emblem in 1747, is the badge of the Lord High Admiral and shows that the Corps is part of the Naval Service.

Per Mare Per Terram ("By Sea By Land"), the motto of the Marines, is believed to have been used for the first time in 1775.

The regimental quick march of the Corps is "A Life on the Ocean Wave", while the slow march is the march of the Preobrazhensky Regiment, awarded to the Corps by Admiral of the Fleet Earl Mountbatten of Burma on the occasion of the Corps's tercentenary in 1964. Lord Mountbatten was Life Colonel Commandant of the Royal Marines until his murder by the IRA in 1979.

Dress headgear is a white Wolseley pattern pith helmet surmounted by a ball, a distinction once standard for artillerymen. This derives from the part of the Corps that was once the Royal Marine Artillery.

The Royal Marines are one of six regiments[citation needed] allowed by the Lord Mayor of the City of London to march through the City as a regiment in full array. This dates to the charter of Charles II that allowed recruiting parties of the Admiral's Regiment of 1664 to enter the City with drums beating and colours flying.

Their nickname "Bootneck" derives its origins from the leather 'stock' worn round the neck inside the collar by soldiers (cf. Leatherneck).


Royal Marines in parade dress.

For historical information regarding Marine uniforms, see History of the Royal Marines.

The modern Royal Marines retain a number of distinctive uniform items. These include the green "Lovat" service dress worn with the green beret, the dark blue parade dress worn with either the white Wolseley pattern helmet or white and red peaked cap, the scarlet and blue mess dress for officers and senior non-commissioned officers and the white hot-weather uniform of the Band Service.

Order of precedence

As the descendant of the old Marine Regiments of the British Army, the Royal Marines used to have a position in the order of precedence of the Infantry; this was after the 49th Regiment of Foot, the final lineal descendant of which was the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment. Therefore, the Royal Marines would have paraded after the RGBW. This is because the 49th Foot was the last Regiment raised prior to the formation of the Corps of Marines as part of the Royal Navy in 1755. In 2007, the RGBW was amalgamated into a large Regiment—this new Regiment is placed last in the order of precedence, as it is a regiment of rifles. However as a result of the new Army amalgamations the Royal Marines have now been removed from the Infantry order of precedence and will now always take post, as a constituent part of the Naval Service, at the head of the parade alongside the Navy, or alone if the Navy are not represented. Thus, if only the infantry is represented, the Royal Marines would parade before the Grenadier Guards, the senior infantry regiment in the Army.

Preceded by
As part of Naval Service, assumes precedence before all Army units
Infantry order of precedence Succeeded by
Grenadier Guards


Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

Early connections date from Balaclava in the Crimean War and Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny, but the main association stems from World War II. In July 1940, after the fall of Dunkirk, the 5th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders served with the Royal Marine Brigade for over a year. When HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk in December 1941, the Royal Marines survivors joined up with the remnants of the 2nd Battalion, in the defence of Singapore. They formed what became known as 'The Plymouth Argylls', after the association football team, since both ships were Plymouth manned. Most of the Highlanders and Marines who survived the bitter fighting were taken prisoner by the Japanese. The Royal Marines inter-unit rugby football trophy is the 'Argyll Bowl', presented to the Corps by the Regiment in 1941. A message of greetings is sent to the Regiment each year on their Regimental Day, 25 October, the anniversary of the Battle of Balaclava in 1854.


See also


  1. ^ "House of Commons Hansard, Written Answers for 19th Feb 2007 (pt0044), Marines: manpower". Hansard. 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-06. 
  2. ^ a b Britain's Reserve Forces, Ministry of Defence
  3. ^ United Kingdom Defence Statistics 2005 Glossary, Ministry of Defence, archived from the original on 29 June 2009, 
  4. ^ Origins of Royal Marines
  5. ^ History of RM deployments
  6. ^ Royal Marines Museum - Suez deployment (PDF)
  7. ^ "Senior Naval Staff". Archived from the original on 14 March 2009. "As the Commander-in-Chief Fleet, a position he took up in November 2007, Mark Stanhope has full command of all deployable Fleet units, including the Royal Marines." 
  8. ^ "30 Commando Information Exploitation Group". Royal Navy. Retrieved 2 June 2010. 
  9. ^ Bridge Card - 11 February 11
  10. ^ Other Units of the Royal marines on Royal Navy website
  11. ^ Extract from The Globe & Laurel, November/December 2000, archived from the original on 2010-11-05, 
  12. ^ Commando Units To Be Reshaped, Navy News article
  13. ^ comukamphibfor
  14. ^ Commando Helicopter Force webpage
  15. ^ "Royal Marines Commando Training". Ministry of Defence. Archived from the original on 10 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-23. 
  16. ^ Weapons & Equipment
  17. ^ Joint Committees On Transportation Holds Public Hearing Re: Trans 123
  • A Brief Chronology of Marines History 1664-2003, Royal Marines Museum
  • Historical Records of the Buffs, East Kent Regiment, 3rd Foot, Formerly Designated the Holland Regiment, by H. R. Knight, 1905.
  • The Whitefoord Papers; Being the Correspondence and Other Manuscripts of Colonel Charles Whitefoord and Caleb Whitefoord, from 1739 to 1810, by Charles Whitefoord, Clarendon press, 1898. Searchable full text available on-line at Google Books. Charles Whitefoord served in Wynyard's (4th Marines), Gooch's, and the 5th Marines in the 1740s.
  • Historical record of the Royal marine forces, by Paul Harris Nicolas, Thomas and Boone, London, 1845. Searchable full text available on-line at Google Books.
  • Per Mare, Per Terram: Reminiscences of Thirty-two Years' Military, Naval, and Constabulary Service by William Henry Poyntz, Economic Print. & Publ. Co. (1892). Searchable full text available on-line at Google Books.
  • Britain's sea soldiers : a history of the Royal Marines and their predecessors and of their services in action, ashore and afloat, and upon sundry other occasions of moment, by Cyril Field, Liverpool:The Lyceum Press, 1924, (2 vol.) Covers British Marines until around 1900.
  • Britain's Sea Soldiers: A Record of the Royal Marines during the War 1914-1919, by General Sir H.E. Blumberg, Devonport, 1927. Very detailed with excellent maps. The USMC used the maps from this book for their studies of Gallipoli in the 1920s and 30s that led to the formation of US amphibious doctrine in 1935.
  • By Sea and Land by Robin Neillands, 1987, Cassell Military Paperbacks, ISBN 0-304-35683-2. Traces the history of the Corps until the end of the Falkands Campaign in 1982.
  • Uniforms of the Royal Marines by Charles Stadden, 1997, ISBN 0-9519342-2-8

External links

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